B’Tselem: Disruptions at Rafah Crossing Highlight Israel’s Duty to Enable Gazans’ Travel Abroad

TEL AVIV, April 30, 2012 (WAFA) – The Israeli human rights organization, B’Tselem, said that Disruptions at Rafah Crossing highlight Israel’s duty to enable Gazans’ travel abroad, said a statement published by B’Tselem on Tuesday.

It said that Israel keeps the residents of the Gaza Strip from operating an airport and sea port, bars them from traveling abroad via either the Allenby Crossing that connects the West Bank and Jordan or Israeli airports. These actions render Rafah Crossing the only exit route from the Gaza Strip.

However, even when Rafah Crossing is functioning regularly, going through it is subject to arbitrary restrictions imposed by the Egyptian authorities, and travel abroad requires a long, dangerous journey through the Sinai desert. Therefore, the passage into Egypt cannot be considered an absolute solution for travel for Gaza residents to other countries, added the statement.

Israel’s policy prevents Palestinians in Gaza from fulfilling their right to freedom of movement. Even now, eight years after Israel completed its Disengagement Plan from the Gaza Strip, the extent of its control over access to Gaza means Israel is responsible for enabling residents to fulfill their right to freedom of movement and its attendant rights, including the right to earn a living, the right to an education and the right to sustain family ties, said B’Tselem.

Its said that Israel cites security concerns as justification for some of the restrictions imposed on the residents of Gaza. Such security concerns can be addressed by means of specific restrictions on travel and by conducting individualized inspections. Yet security considerations cannot justify the comprehensive restrictions Israel imposes on all residents of the Gaza Strip.

In September 2005, Israel completed its Disengagement Plan from the Gaza Strip. Notwithstanding, Israel has retained control over all entry and exit points to and from Gaza, with the exception of Rafah Crossing. Israel controls Gaza’s sea- and air-space and prohibits the movement of aircraft or sea vessels there. With very rare exceptions, Israel also prohibits travel abroad from the Gaza Strip through Allenby Crossing in the West Bank, and never allows Palestinians to fly abroad from Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport.